In today’s digital age, content creators must navigate the complex landscape of intellectual property law to protect their creations and avoid infringing upon the intellectual property rights of others.
This guide aims to provide WordPress users with a comprehensive understanding of the basics of trademark and copyright law and the special characters associated with trademarks and copyright, to equip WordPress users with the necessary knowledge to navigate intellectual property concerns effectively and grow their online presence.
Trademarks TM ®
A trademark is a distinctive symbol which functions as a source identifier to distinguish one trader’s goods or services from those of another trader in the marketplace.
A trademark may be comprised of letters, words, phrases, sounds, designs, or a combination thereof. The rights associated with a registered trademark are territorial.
That means, for example, the owner of a registered trademark in Canada has the exclusive right to use the registered mark for a period of 10 years (which may be renewed indefinitely) and the right to protect the mark from misuse by third parties.
Note, however, that an owner of an unregistered trademark may also have rights at common law.
WordPress users have the ability to use different special characters to identify registered and unregistered trademarks.
For example, the superscript TM in English or the superscript MC (which stands for marque de commerce) in French, are used to indicate ownership of unregistered trademarks in Canada.
TM/MC signifies that a particular word, phrase, or logo is being claimed as a trademark, even if it may not be registered with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
For registered trademarks, the registered trademark symbol denoted by a superscript encircled “R” is used to indicate that a mark has been officially registered with the requisite intellectual property office.
In Canada, this means that the mark has undergone the registration process, which includes filing an application, subjecting the application to an examination for registrability, advertisement, and potentially overcoming opposition if the mark was formally opposed by a third party.
Only trademarks that have gone through the registration process and have been granted legal protection should bear the ® symbol.
Note that, in some cases, owners may choose to use TM, instead of a combination of TM and R.
To avoid infringing on the rights of existing trademark owners, users of WordPress may wish to take a few protective measures.
Prior to creating any brand names, logos, or slogans for your website, it is crucial to conduct a comprehensive trademark search.
A comprehensive trademark search may include searching online databases containing registered trademarks such as the Canadian Trademarks Database and conducting Google searches for business listings and business social media pages.
Should you discover registered or unregistered trademarks similar to the mark you wish to apply for, you may consider retaining an intellectual property lawyer to assist with determining and clarifying the likelihood of registering your mark successfully.
In general, you will want to differentiate your brand from your competitors by developing a distinctive brand identity to minimize the risk of trademark infringement.
Creating unique logos, slogans, and designs will help to set your brand apart from others in the same industry, reduce the likelihood of consumer confusion and strengthen your brand’s value.
To protect your existing trademarks, you may consider including a trademark notice on your WordPress site. Trademark notices are a way to communicate your rights and deter potential infringers.
As discussed above, unregistered trademarks are marked with the ™ symbol to indicate the owner’s intent to claim and possibly enforce their trademark rights, whilst the ® symbol denotes registered trademarks to put the public on notice that the mark is statutorily protected.
In addition, if you believe that a WordPress user is infringing upon your trademark rights by using a confusingly similar trademark, you may file a complaint with WordPress.
The complaint will be evaluated based on several factors that determine the likelihood of confusion between the user’s trademark and yours, including the strength of the mark ranging from generic to fanciful, the similarity of the marks in terms of sound, appearance and meaning, and actual evidence of consumer confusion.
There are three possible outcomes from an evaluation by WordPress:
- A finding of no trademark infringement, in which case no further action will be taken;
- A borderline finding, in which case WordPress will encourage the complainant to resolve the issue with the owner of the allegedly infringing site;
- A finding of trademark infringement, in which case WordPress will ask the owner of the infringing site to comply with a list of changes, or else risk suspension for non-compliance.
Copyright protects original literary, artistic, dramatic, and musical works and other subject matter such as performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
The term of copyright is jurisdiction specific. In Canada, the term of copyright is life of the author plus seventy years.
Copyright registration is not mandatory as copyright subsists in the works of copyrightable subject matter as soon as they are created and fixed in some material form.
That said, registering your copyright will give the owner a certificate of registration of copyright which may be used as evidence in Court to prove ownership.
To protect your copyrighted content, users may consider displaying a notice of copyright on their WordPress website, whether or not you have a certificate of registration.
A copyright notice comprises the use of the copyright symbol or an encircled capital “C”, the year of creation or publication, and the name of the copyright owner.
Typically, the notice is placed in the footer, sidebar or, in some cases, the header on every webpage.
A copyright notice is a cost-effective means of asserting ownership and deterring potential infringers.
If you suspect that a WordPress user has infringed your copyright by using your copyrighted content on their website without permission, you may submit a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice to WordPress, requesting the removal of the infringing content.
If the notice is complete and valid, WordPress will remove the infringing content. In addition, users may consider using WordPress-compatible plugins to prevent others from copying their content.
For example, Passster is a plugin that disables the right-click and copy-paste functions on your page, making copyright infringement that much more challenging.
The use of special characters to identify copyrighted works and trademarks helps users protect their creative and commercial assets by putting the public on notice of a user’s rights.
By understanding copyright basics, displaying copyright notices, and utilizing DMCA takedown notices and WordPress compatible plugins to protect copyrighted materials, WordPress users can safeguard their original works and address infringement issues early.
Similarly, by utilizing trademark notice symbols appropriately, WordPress users can maintain brand integrity and avoid infringing upon the marks of others.
Infringement can get complicated for both the infringer and the owner of the infringed work or trademark, and damages, or cost awards, for these types of infringements can be quite high if the issues escalate.
If you would like assistance with protecting your copyrighted works and trademarks from unauthorized use online, consult an intellectual property lawyer.